Getting Personal with the Personals



You know you’ve made it as a writer when you go perusing the Craigslist writing gigs section late at night.  There you’ll find a veritable smorgasbord of non-paying jobs, “marketing” start-ups, and kids looking for help on term papers.  It’s like the Algonquin Roundtable, but with a better chance for witty displays and productive collaborations.

So imagine my delight when I came across this gem the other night.  (As I suspected it might, this ad has already gone the way of all Craigslist postings and been deleted by its author.  But I assure you it was here, goddammit! It was right here!)

Now before you Baltimore-area ghostwriters go getting all turfy on me, please notice this is a Maryland gig but listed on the DC CL site.  Don’t make me call the union on you.

Here’s what this dear soul wanted to commission from a gifted writer, like yours truly, before hiring someone else or maybe getting a little shy and yanking it down:


There are so many things wrong with this that it’s perfect. The bad grammar is just like the pretty little foam-pattern on top of the $50 of worth of lattes.  But, of course, the utterly genius bit is asking someone to write an essay that draws on personal experiences and examples, all without offering any hint of the poster’s own experiences.

Never one to back down from a challenge, I assayed the essay.  Two pages, double-spaced, and full of personal experiences they might have had.  Who knows, right?

  1. Project Experience
    Discuss a project on which you have personally worked in terms of what management methods and techniques worked well during the project and what did not. Support your comments with examples from the project.


My Personal Experiences Managing a Chinchilla Farm

Managing chinchillas can be a tough slog.  Many times, people think that chinchillas aren’t even real!  Folks think that they are mythical beasts, like unicorns, big foot, entrepreneurs, mermaids, labradoodles, robotic vacuum cleaners, or the Loch Ness Monster.  But they aren’t.    And managing them means managing not just the animals themselves – that’s what chinchillas are, they are animals – but managing a team of skilled horticulturalists and farmworkers.

The first decision one has to make when opening a chinchilla farm is latitude.  If it is too warm, your herd will not thrive, because chinchillas are native to the mountains of Chile and Peru.  “Latitude determines attitude” is a common joke in the chinchilla agricultural community.  Yet it’s not the least bit funny.  It’s just true.  So the first hire for any would-be chinchilla farmer is a person with good knowledge of the globe and what those lines on it mean.  The day that I hired Deborah, my college-educated friend with a major in geography and a minor in animal husbandry, was the day I set my feet on the path to success. I found that when you’re managing a self-starter with knowledge that is absolutely key to the business’s success, an approach imbued with mutual respect and admiration is far better than the type of micro-managing tyranny in which I typically prefer to traffic.

And while we’re on the topic of animal husbandry, that’s a super important skill base to have on your staff too when farming an animal.  Especially one that – like the chinchilla – really prefers to have a husband.  So our second hire at “Not Buy The Hair Of Your Chinny-Chin-Chilla Farms, Ltd.” was a local minister open to performing all sorts of weddings for alternative families and for critters too.  Reverend Alex is a hell of guy, just as happy to help a lizard tie the knot as a young couple who just so happen to be human.  When you’re supervising a professional who has specialized knowledge yet must be part of the larger team, you really just have to keep your nose out of the liturgical materials.  Don’t go trying to tell a man of God how to craft matrimonial vows for a rodent.  I know that’s a tough lesson for most farmers to swallow, but swallow they must.

Speaking of swallowing, that’s probably the last and yet most important decision an aspiring chinchilla enthusiast and small business owner must make: Do I dare go for the big bucks and sell them for their fur, or do I stick to the humane path?  Needless to say, this is not just a moral question but a managerial one.  Not to reduce it to a question of “humane” resources alone, but you have to know whether to hire an employee who can swiftly, justly and painlessly, um, go about doing whatever it takes to shear the fur from the animals then (presumably) apply the aftershave needed to soothe their sensitive pelts.

Finding the right person can be like finding a labradoodle: They don’t exist!  So that’s why our executive team does not include any furriers or people of that sort—only veterinarians, groomers and other essential staff who specialize in breeding chinchillas as pets for loving families.  Them, plus also Dave, our in-house butcher, who helps us cater (no pun intended) to a few special clients. (Okay, actually the pun was intended.)

I sure have learned a lot of great management lessons.  Personally.

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